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Love is the Result of an Identification

    It is easy for us to love those close to us--"What father among you, if asked by his son for a loaf will hand him a stone?" Even the evil behave differently from that. The point which Jesus makes about love is its inclusiveness--inclusive of those who think differently from you, belong to a different class (especially those regarded as social outcasts), the people of different race from you. These are the ones with whom we are to deal as equal with ourselves.

    But how can we? It is one of the most arresting facts about the love preached in the Bible that it is not something which can be manufactured. We cannot make ourselves love. How then are we able to behave like this, or is the impossible asked of us? Love, like peace, is a product, a result in the Bible. Peace is the product of justice; love is the result of an identification--the identifying of our wills with the will of God, and our fate with that of all men, however obscure, fallen and needy. To love God with the totality of devotion called for by Jesus is to commit one's self to God and his purpose. To love your neighbor as yourself is to stand equal, with no claims of special privilege, with every living creature. Hence Jesus' shocking behaviour in eating and drinking with publicans, harlots, and those racially unacceptable as equals in the best Jerusalem society. The point about the story of the Good Samaritan which must have been very surprising and challenging to its hearers was that a Samaritan, who was racially and religiously an outcast, was more acceptable in the sight of God than a priest or Levite, because he behaved toward an unknown person as if he were a member of his own family. Unfortunately, we have tended to interpret the story in Christian circles as meaning that to love is to help the needy. The fact that the Jews had a magnificent system of helping their own needy, would have robbed such a statement of any point. Nor does it explain Paul's statement that if you give everything you have in charity, it avails you nothing unless you have love....

    Interdependence, the acknowledgment that we all desperately need each other, is one of the most important contributions Christianity has to make to social and economic problems. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says (in the part immediately preceding his statement about love): "If the foot were to say 'because I am not the hand I do not belong to the body,' that does not make it no part of the body. If the ear were to say, 'because I am not the eye, I do not belong to the body,' that does not make it no part of the body. If the body were all eye, where would hearing be?...The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' quite the contrary." (1 Corinthians 12:15-21). We are inescapably all members of one another.

    This is love--not saving your own skin, but hungering and thirsting after righteousness; knowing that you cannot have real security yourself while others are insecure.

    Rose Terlin, contemporary American editor, writer.
    Christian Faith and Social Action